CBI raids Chidambaram’s son over INX deal, ex-minister says govt trying to silence him
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) searched the homes and offices of the son of former finance minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday as part of a wider probe into suspected misconduct in government approvals for foreign investments.
The CBI also formally named Chidambaram’s son Karti as one of those accused of criminal conspiracy, cheating, seeking to influence a public servant and criminal misconduct in a 2007 sale of stakes in a company called INX Media to offshore entities. Also named in the case were then INX promoter Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani, both of whom are now on trial for the murder of her daughter from a previous relationship. HT has a copy of the CBI first information report (FIR).
Tuesday’s dawn raids saw officers swoop down on locations across New Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai and Chidambaram’s hometown Chennai, escalating pressure on the senior Congress leader who has been a vocal opponent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The CBI also searched the sprawling mansion of the Mukerjeas in Mumbai.
The CBI investigation relates to foreign investments received by INX in 2007-08. The probe is part of a wider investigation into whether Chidambaram misused his office as finance minister in the previous government to secure payoffs for his son in exchange of foreign investments approvals.
Chidambaram, 71, and his son Karti deny any wrongdoing.
“The government is using CBI and other agencies to target my son and his friends. The government wants to silence my voice,” Chidambaram said in a statement shortly after the raids began.
“The government wants to stop me from writing, as it has tried to do with leaders of opposition parties, journalists, columnists, NGOs and civil society members.” Chidambaram writes a weekly column in a prominent English daily.
Tuesday’s raids stem from litigation brought by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who says Chidambaram abused his office to circumvent rules and approve a Rs600 crore investment deal between telecom players Aircel and the Malaysia-headquartered Maxis group in 2006.
“FIPB approval is granted in hundreds of cases. The five secretaries who constitute the FIPB (foreign investment promotion board), the officials of the FIPB secretariat and the competent authority in each case are the public officials,” Chidambaram said.
“There is no allegation against any of them. There is no allegation against me.”
In April, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes, told the Supreme Court in a confidential status report that it had found evidence of Advantage Strategic, a company allegedly owned by Karti, receiving “consultation fee” worth Rs1.16 crore from Aircel and other companies. Top ED sources shared the information with HT.
Citing ED documents, HT reported last year that according to the terms of a will deed recovered from the Chennai office of Advantage Strategic, a company allegedly owned by Karti, 60% of the controversial company was owned by Karti’s family. The remaining was owned by Ausbridge Holdings — once 95% owned by Karti — which was later transferred at a discount to Mohanan Rajesh, an alleged associate of his.
These wills were among a cache of documents recovered by a joint Income Tax-Enforcement Directorate investigation into Karti’s businesses involving estates, sports academies, hotels and apartments in 22 countries.
Other documents recovered from Karti’s office and Advantage Strategic allegedly show the latter received consultancy fees from companies that had applied to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board with Chidambaram as its chief.
One bank account of Advantage Strategic with Development Credit Bank (A/c 06020100003711) revealed the scale of its operations: Transactions worth Rs 151.31 crore since 2005-06.
(With KV Lakshmana in Chennai)